8 out of 10
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor
Robin Wright as General Antiope
David Thewlis as Sir Patrick
Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta
Elena Anaya as Maru / Doctor Poison
Lucy Davis as Etta Candy
Ewen Bremner as Charlie
Doutzen Kroes as Venelia
Danny Huston as General Erich Ludendorff
Mayling Ng as Orana
Eleanor Matsuura as Epione
Samantha Jo as Euboea
Eugene Brave Rock as Chief
Saïd Taghmaoui as Sameer
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Wonder Woman Review:
On the island of Themyscira, Diana is raised as the only child among the warrior race of Amazons. Tracing their history back to Zeus and the Greek gods, the women were tasked with protecting mankind. But after a war between Zeus and Ares, the god of war, the gods were wiped out and the Amazons hidden from the rest of the world on their magically-protected island.
While Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta desires to shelter her young daughter from the horrors of the world, her sister General Antiope wants to train her to fight and prepare her for the inevitable war to come. Diana is an eager student and eventually becomes the most powerful warrior among the Amazons. She also begins exhibiting strange new powers that even amaze her fellow Amazonians.
Diana’s world is changed forever when Steve Trevor stumbles upon their island in a damaged plane and crash lands on it. Unknown to the Amazons, World War I has been raging in the rest of the world and now it has found them. As the Amazonians interrogate Trevor, Diana is horrified by what she hears. She becomes convinced that Ares is still alive and causing the conflict. She wants to lead an army to deal with him. However, Queen Hippolyta wants nothing to do with the rest of the world. Disobeying her mother and risking banishment forever, Diana frees Trevor and goes on a quest to find Ares and stop the war. However, she soon finds out that the rest of the world is more amazing, complex, and terrifying than she imagined.
Wonder Woman is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content.
There was a lot riding on Wonder Woman. People debated whether a female-led superhero movie could be successful. People wondered if Warner Bros. could get away from dark and brooding superheroes. And, of course, how could such a movie fare with critics? I was happy to discover that all of those fears were relieved and Wonder Woman seems to be one of those rare movies that pleases fans and critics alike and Warner Bros. may have found the right balance between humor, action, and drama that they have sorely needed.
Wonder Woman reminds me of several movies. It has the Greek mythology and swordplay of Clash of the Titans. In the world of the Amazons, we see them fight with bows and arrows, swords, and magic. There’s talk of Zeus and Ares (and we see a glimpse of Poseidon, which may foreshadow the upcoming Aquaman movie). Then when Diana travels to London there’s a real feel of Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie. There are a number of comedic moments as our heroine walks among the real world for the first time. She has trouble with rotating doors, she deflects bullets in a back alley, and she’s as pure and naïve as farm boy Clark Kent. The film then transitions to the front of World War I and it has a distinct feel of Captain America: The First Avenger. Steve Trevor rallies a ragtag crew around out superhero and they battle Germans and comic book villains in a period setting. It blatantly follows the Captain America game plan, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Wonder Woman has another interesting inspiration that director Patty Jenkins mentions and that’s The Little Mermaid. Diana wants to explore the human world. She gives up her home to explore the world. When she gets there she becomes disillusioned with mankind. Then, eventually, there’s a massive supernatural battle. It’s all very similar, but in a good way.
Every once in a while, perfect casting for a character comes along. There’s Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. There’s Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. There’s Heath Ledger as the Joker. But after seeing Wonder Woman, it’s clear that Gal Gadot is perfect as Diana Prince. She had a tremendous burden to carry this movie, yet she does so successfully in every way. Gadot handles the action like a pro. Whether she’s swinging a sword, racing into battle on a horse, or tossing tanks around, she looks awesome doing so. But, honestly, that’s the easy part. Gadot makes Diana a character that you care about, so that when she goes into battle, you buy into everything she’s doing no matter how outrageous it is. She gives a naïveté to Diana that makes her endearing. She chastises the British leaders in a child-like way, yet there’s truth in everything she says. And while it would be tempting to make Diana “one of the boys,” the story embraces her femininity in a way that makes her unique among superheroes. As she sees women and children displaced by war, her heart is broken and that drives her to fight. That “Mother Bear” drive is not really seen in Captain America. When she walks the streets of London and encounters the first human child she’s ever seen, she squeals, “Oh! A baby!” and races over to see it. You’d never see Batman do that, yet it in no way takes away from her toughness elsewhere in the film. Gadot also handles the humor perfectly as Diana is the fish out of water in London for the first time. She manages to balance it all perfectly.
Then there’s the romance. Gadot has fantastic chemistry with Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. The two are obviously nice to look at, but Pine and Gadot manage to give them a deeper relationship that makes it more satisfying when they finally do manage to have their first kiss. Trevor is battle hardened and has seen the worst in mankind, yet he still manages to carry the spark of optimism within him. Pair that with Diana’s power, courage, and naïveté and you have a great combination. Each one pulls the other one up when they’re down and they rely on each other to save the day. It’s a great pattern for other comic book relationships down the road.
Pine and Gadot are such a central focus of the movie that it’s easy to overlook the rest of the cast, which is also strong. Robin Wright is surprisingly tough as General Antiope. She’s not in the film long but she makes a big impact when she’s on the screen. Connie Nielsen is also good as Queen Hippolyta. She embodies a parent’s desire to shelter their child from the world, while at the same time trying to prepare them to face it. Lucy Davis provides some comic relief as Etta Candy. Rounding out Trevor’s crew are Ewen Bremner as Charlie, Eugene Brave Rock as Chief, and Saïd Taghmaoui as Sameer. They obviously play second fiddle to Pine and Gadot, but they each have moments to shine.
Action fans won’t be disappointed by Wonder Woman. There’s a memorable battle between the Amazonians and the invading Germans. Then Wonder Woman’s debut on the battlefield is emotional, impressive, and ultimately one of the best action scenes on the big screen this year.
What Didn’t Work:
For me, the first 3/4 of Wonder Woman was quite strong. I loved the story of Diana leaving her world and becoming a part of ours. But then the last 1/4 of the film loses the humor, loses the sense of wonder, and becomes like every other superhero finale out there. The ending is a massive CG battle that makes you feel like you’re watching a video game. It becomes less of a fun adventure and more like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s not enough to ruin the movie, but it’s such a dramatic shift in tone that it’s quite noticeable. And when Diana does eventually save the day (I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here by saying that), the reaction of the onlookers is rather hokey. It leaves the film on a goofy note.
The villains are also not all that impressive. I like the fact that there’s a villainess with Elena Anaya as Doctor Poison, but she has no depth whatsoever. If they had delved into her motivation more and possibly made her the Yin to Diana’s Yang, she might have been more interesting. As it is, she’s little more than Igor to Danny Huston as General Erich Ludendorff. He has little screentime and when he is on, he doesn’t feel like a worthy adversary to Wonder Woman. Ares ends up being somewhat of a disappointment as well, but I can’t say much without getting into spoilers.
At the screening I attended, there were a lot of little girls holding Wonder Woman dolls, wearing Wonder Woman T-shirts, and wearing Wonder Woman tiaras. It was cool to see them get so into the story and character. One little girl behind me was eagerly asking her mother about what Diana was doing or saying. It was great. However, partway through the film, there’s a scene where Steve Trevor gets out of the bath… and stands naked in front of Diana for a long time. It was done for humor and obviously eye candy for the ladies. But for a movie that’s trying to be accessible to young children, I thought it should have been cut. And if it had been a male lead standing in front of a naked female co-star emerging from the bath, there would have been calls of sexism. For a film so under the microscope on how it portrays genders, it was an unusual choice.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Wonder Woman is a fun superhero movie that’s well worth checking out on the big screen. And if you’ve been dissatisfied with the tone of the DC films, this may be more of what you’re looking for. I look forward to seeing more of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in the future.